An Open Letter to the National Media
I was listening to ESPN radio Sportscenter Saturday with Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel as a guest promoting his fine new book about Super Bowl history. Right before the segment concluded, the host asked McGinn why quarterback Brett Favre continues to be held in contempt by many Packer fans. McGinn, being the arrogant ass that he is, basically dismissed it as irrational fan behavior, citing lingering resentment towards former coach Mike Holmgren as an additional example.
First of all, there’s nothing rational about being a sports fan, but that’s beside the point. Obviously, fans and the media view these things from different perspectives. The media is always looking for a story and Favre has always provided good copy. Fans, by contrast, have a decidedly more narrow and personal view. While it amazes me that the media still doesn’t seem to ‘get it’, as a public service I will try to clear it up for the people whose business it is to report on our teams.
For the record we as Packer fans, more than anyone, well know and appreciate everything that ’4′ has done for our chosen franchise. To use a biblical analogy, he helped lead us to championship salvation after 30 years of wandering in the football desert. In the process, Favre provided Packer fans with many thrills, both good and bad and we savored the ride. Like the rest of the country, we embraced the way he played the game and, despite our sometime frustrations with his well documented shortcomings both on and off the field, we accepted him as one of our own. Repeatedly throughout his career, Favre publicly reciprocated that affection and indicated that he couldn’t foresee himself playing for any team other than Green Bay. Without knowing any better, we took him at his word.
Somewhere along the way, though, that view came to be modified. With his yearly vacillations about continuing his career and his efforts to avoid more and more offseason work as he grew older, the perception about him changed to that of an entitled athlete who put himself above the team. To Packer fans who view their football team as something of a public trust, that kind of thing is not going to be well received in every quarter.
Despite what the Favre apologists would have us believe, for the most part Favre was in control of his destiny all along. If he had never retired, General Manager Ted Thompson and head coach Mike McCarthy would never have been in a position to move forward without him no matter what they may or may not have desired. Favre could have continued his career to it’s logical conclusion and retired beloved as a Packer. Indeed, had he actually done so, he would have come to be universally revered in Green Bay much the same way that Packers legend Bart Starr is to this day.
Unfortunately, events didn’t occur that way. The timing of Favre’s “retirement” and subsequent return, after the team had already committed to Aaron Rodgers as it’s starting quarterback, seemed calculated to put the Packers organization in the worst possible public relations position in an effort for Favre to gain his release from a team that he clearly no longer wished to play for. All Thompson really managed to do was delay Favre’s plan for a year until he realized his ultimate goal of joining the Minnesota Vikings. The idea of Favre engineering his way to play for the Packers arch rival understandably came to be seen as a betrayal by many Green Bay fans who lived and died with him in a football sense for 16 years.
Since Packer fans are generally a magnanimous group, we will eventually come to forgive Favre and welcome him back into the fold whenever he’s ready to come back. But most of us will not forget that it was he who first turned his back on us.
Oh and, by the way, Holmgren cost us a second Super Bowl title against Denver by having one foot out the door on his way to Seattle. But there’s still a street in Ashwaubenon named after him, as well as Favre.